Former Duke Lacrosse Coach Sues Duke

Despite settling with Duke University last year over his forced resignation as coach of the Duke Lacrosse team following the barrage of publicity of the unfounded sexual assault charges against some of the team's players, Mike Pressler is suing Duke and trying to rescind the settlement.

His reason: a Senior VP at Duke disparaged him after the settlement.


Via Liestoppers, quoting the Herald Sun:

One of the comments appeared in an April 9 article published in Newsday, a New York newspaper. It quoted Burness as saying that coaches are responsible for the behavior of their teams and that the difference between Pressler and his successor, current lacrosse coach John Danowski, was "night and day."

The other comment appeared in a June Associated Press article and quoted Burness that after the controversy sparked by what proved to be false rape allegations lodged against three team members, a coaching change was essential for the team to move forward.

Without seeing the settlement agreement or the complaint Pressler filed, it's hard to get a handle on whether it's a good lawsuit or not.

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    night and day (none / 0) (#1)
    by manys on Sat Oct 13, 2007 at 05:44:24 PM EST
    Naturally IANAL, but I doubt a lateral comparison such as "night and day" rises to the level of disparagement, though I admit I haven't checked the lacrosse standings lately. Let's see if homie spends his settlement trying to get out of it.

    In the shoes (none / 0) (#2)
    by Packratt on Sat Oct 13, 2007 at 06:21:47 PM EST
    All I can say is, must be nice to have money to get lawyers to file suit over such things.

    I mean, sure,it's hell being maliciously prosecuted and have your name dragged through the mud without even an apology or anything, even when you're innocent, I know from personal experience.

    But, this guy wasn't put through the hell of being in jail and deprived of a voice to defend himself and his reputation while he and his family suffered the stigma of being accused of a crime he did not commit.

    Hell, guy should feel lucky he got something out of the deal... Normal people like me who were really put through the ringer and purposefully abused by the system don't get squat!

    from the perspective of a plaintiff's lawyer - (none / 0) (#3)
    by scribe on Sun Oct 14, 2007 at 09:34:09 AM EST
    the former coach is not going to file a lawsuit unless the lawyer has checked out the settlement agreement and satisfied himself, after research, that the statements are actionable because either (A) they violate the limits on what the one side can say about the other or (B) they constitute disparagement under whatever the local common law might consider the standard.

    First, the lawyer is not going to waste his time or reputation on a meritless suit.

    Second, the lawyer is not going to spend his upfront money on a bogus suit in the hope the client will pay him back.

    Third, saying "night and day" or "after X a change was needed" is exactly the kind of disparagement which goes on a lot - it's "non-defamatory" in the defamation per se sense, but it makes clear to the listener (and anyone hearing about it) that, regardless of how much the speaker (or his organization) may have paid to settle the prior lawsuit, they consider themselves to have been right and the former coach to have been all as bad as everyone said, and more.  

    My inclination is to think this is wholly actionable and will likely result in a sound slap to the Sr. VP's face.

    Which is it? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Joe Bob on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 01:28:16 PM EST
    The Duke VP's comment is a jumping off point for this question: What explains the schizophrenic nature of this country when it comes to deciding who is culpable for what?

    On the one hand you have a senior college administrator opining that athletic coaches are responsible for the behavior of those they coach. Maybe that's true of Little League, but in this case we are presumably talking about young adults in the 18 to 21-year-old range. Doesn't suggesting that the coach is responsible for the behavior of the players infer that the players aren't entirely responsible for themselves?

    At the same time, the age at which juveniles get hauled before adult courts just seems to keep going down and down. No one thinks twice about 16-year-olds being tried as adults anymore. And who can forget the case of Nathaniel Abraham, tried in adult court for murder at 13-years-old, for a crime that occurred when he was 11.

    So, 6th-grade = throw the book at him. College sophomore = it was partly coach's fault.  Explain that one to me.